Put Your Records On

Kaitlin Dryburgh

This newsletter was originally established to face-off the notion that we should all be spending our free-time shopping. That the best the weekend can get is feeling the rush of having a newly purchased item thrust into your hands by a shopping assistant.

However in despite of this I’m going to advocate for shopping, just this once. Admittedly this is a little different than heading down to your nearest Primark.

National Record Store day will be taking place on April 20th and will include over 270 independent record shops from all over the UK, including some absolute gems in Scotland. Established in the US in 2007, Record Store day came to the UK the following year and has continuously grown as an event that celebrates the culture and community of record stores. The annual event is a great opportunity to champion creative independent retailors that have to fight hard to still exist, a celebration of the fans and of course the music.

In a world of streaming platforms and playlists where the beauty of sitting down and listening to music in the exact order that the artist intended it be is often lost, records can possess the solution. Records used to be symbol of times gone by, pocket money going towards a new record or a way to make fun of the younger generation who have no idea what a record player does when presented with one. However, the resurgence in their popularity looks like it’s here to stay, or at least for this decade. At the end of 2023 record sales hadn’t reached the same hights since the 1990s. After experiencing the 16th year of consecutive growth, record sales in 2023 racked in £170 million in sales.

There is of course a generation of music fans who have been buying records since the 60s, but there’s a younger crowd who also see the value in records as their favourite way of listening. Perhaps a juxtaposition to a large extent there are even Tik Tok accounts dedicated to fans collecting and sharing their enjoyment of music and record collecting. For many of the younger generation who have grown up being able to access just about any form of entertainment from a smartphone the action of physically visiting a place and searching for an album is enjoyable. The hunt to find that secondhand vinyl is thrilling, especially when you’ve grown up with things like Amazon Prime.  Immersing yourself in the experience of a record store and what that brings. It’s also indicative of a time when music was less about social media, music executives and streaming numbers and more about the music itself and the fans.

Although vinyl and CD sales may be on the up independent stores have had to adapt with the times to ensure their survival. Assai record stores have to be on of Scotland’s modern day successes stories when it comes to independent retailers. Originating in Dundee the retailer actually came to be by harnessing the likes of online shopping, the appetite for vinyl online led owner Keith Ingram to make the leap to a physical shop. When many high street retailers have been closing their doors Assai has actually grown. One major element to their success has been the live events their establishment hosts. With some local bands wanting to boost their sales Assai put on a live event, which when used with the likes of social media was a hit. Expanding to bigger premises in Edinburgh provided an opportunity for more frequent events, and they’ve gone on to host artists such as Lewis Capaldi, Snow Patrol, and Anne Marie. Meet and greets, exclusive signed copies has allowed the likes of Assai to bridge that gap to the music industry. And their secret among the many other independent record stores is their ability to offer a destination that oozes a passion for music, good customer service and a community. Spotify, amazon and even HMV can’t replicate that.

So what better way to celebrate their position on our evolving high streets than a day in their honour. I actually lived opposite a record-shop in Edinburgh during my university days and people would start queuing outside the shop hours before it opened and by the looks of things some people were parting with some serious cash. This national Record Store Day leads to an increase in vinyl sales by over 200%.

So why are people queuing in the temperamental Scottish April weather, what’s the draw of Record Store Day? Special releases from some of the most talented artists around, both new and old, famous and non-famous. For example, this year there will be a special edition of David Bowie’s Waiting in the Sky (Before the Starman Came to Earth), but there’s also an exclusive collaboration between Paramore and Talking Head’s David Bryne. Paramore as well as Kate Bush are some of this year’s Record Store Day’s ambassadors. Yet there are hundreds of titles that will be exclusive to the event. But once they’re gone, they’re gone, there are limited number of titles at each store and as per the guidelines there is no pre-ordering, reserving, or buying online. You have no option but to take your chance with the Scottish weather. But while you’re there you might just find another person who’s equally obsessed with the same album as you, or even just community of people who really appreciate the outlet of a record store or the ritual of listening on a record player.

Admittedly through-out my time at university my ability to be a morning person was lacking, so even though I lived opposite a record shop I never scored big on record shop day as the great finds had sold-out.

Scotland’s connection to the vinyl music industry has grown stronger in recent years, and by this spring Scotland will have two pressing plants to call its own. Sea Bass Vinyl in East Lothian looks to become the most sustainable vinyl pressing plant in the world. With it’s family morals their business model looks to create a fair and transparent approach to pricing and helping artists navigate the music industry. Hopefully joining them this Spring will be Rockvinyl based in Glasgow. Currently running a crowdfunder to cover the initial start-up capital this organisation sees vinyl pressing in Scotland as the last piece to the jigsaw. Scotland has produced many wonderful artists, labels and music venues but hasn’t expanded into music production. Just like Sea Bass, Rockvinyl have committed to supporting up and coming artists, again adding to the notion that vinyl perhaps represents a more supportive branch between artist, fans and industry.

I’ll reiterate that this newsletter will rarely advocate for shopping, but this is one exception. If you are a music fan perhaps put it in your diary or have a look for any upcoming events. If not no problem, but take inspiration from national Record Store Day, shop local and support independent businesses when you can.

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